Friday, 5 October 2018

Notes from Eve Abbey • October 2018

 We're 50 this year!

I’ve been reading some really good novels, not the latest releases, most especially Ruth Park’s The Harp in the South. What a great writer! You can get Harp in the South at a good price as a Popular Penguin, but the typeface is old fashioned or you can choose The Harp In the South Novels which includes Missus, Harp in the South and Poor Man’s Orange. I’m sure if you have been to the Sydney Theatre Company production you will want to fill it all in. Pure enjoyment.

Photo credit: Daniel Boud

The Harp In The South: Popular Penguins by Ruth Park The Harp In The South Trilogy by Ruth Park

I was also given Steven Carroll’s latest version of T.S.Eliot’s private life in A New England Affair. Steven has made two previous imaginings in The Lost Life or in A World of Other People. All wonderful books. This latest one is so very sad it was hard to read.

I admire greatly the writing of Steven Carroll so must remind you again of the Glenroy series about a suburban family in Melbourne beginning in the Fifties. There are five novels now – the first is The Art of the Engine Driver, so check them out at Abbey’s or in your library. Unique style. Great writing.

A New England Affair by Steven Carroll The Art of the Engine Driver by Steven Carroll
The Gift of Speed by Steven Carroll The Time We Have Taken by Steven Carroll
Spirit of Progress by Steven Carroll Forever Young by Steven Carroll

Finally I have also enjoyed an expanded edition, of Anthony Hill’s Captain Cook’s Apprentice. It is 250 years since Cook’s momentous voyage into the Pacific , so important to us, so it is a good time to publish the expanded edition of this ripping novel. Isaac Manley, one of the servant boys on board was promoted to Midshipman and later became an Admiral so there will be lots to learn for anyone dreaming of a life at sea – both good and bad.

Captain Cook's Apprentice by Anthony Hill

Keep well,

Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Notes from Eve Abbey • September 2018

 We're 50 this year!

I am a great fan of the wonderful illustrated books of Shaun Tan. His latest is called Cicada, a simple story everyone can understand. It will appeal especially to anyone feeling under-appreciated, but every reader will enjoy it!

I see some excellent reviews for the third volume of Philip Dwyer’s biography of Napoleon. It is called Napoleon: Passion, Death and Resurrection and is very readable. If you haven’t already read Anne Whitehead’s Betsy and the Emperor: The True Story of Napoleon, a Pretty Girl, a Regency Rake and a Colonial Australian Misadventure, add this to your purchase as well. A really good story about Napoleon’s time on St Helena.

V S Naipaul, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, died in August. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, as well as the 1971 Booker Prize for In a Free State, which was also nominated for the recent Golden Man Booker.

If you find some recent fiction dissatisfying, try one of his other novels such as The Enigma of Arrival or A House for Mr Biswas. For a really perceptive view of India, look in Travel Literature for the views of this special Indian born in Trinidad. Three separate visits to India - An Area of Darkness, A Wounded Civilisation and A Million Mutinies Now - are collected in one volume under the title India.

In a Free State by V. S. Naipaul The Enigma of Arrival by V. S. Naipaul
A House For Mr Biswas by V. S. Naipaul In a Free State by V. S. Naipaul

I was especially pleased to hear the interview on ABC Radio’s The Science Show with scientific journalist Mark Lynas. His new book is called Seeds of Science: Why We Got it So Wrong on GMOs. Not before time. I used to worry about Plant Patent Rights.

Seeds of Science: Why We Got it So Wrong on GMOs by Mark Lynas

Have you heard about a book by Amor Towles called A Gentleman in Moscow? This is one of those very stylish books which becomes a secret bestseller. Several people recommended it to me and so it goes on.

Just after the revolution, Count Alexander Rostov is declared by the Kremlin to be an unrepentant aristocrat and is sentenced to live for life in the Hotel Metropol. Not in his usual luxurious suite, but in an attic, a very tiny attic. But the count is an educated, erudite gentleman and is determined to live a life of purpose.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

You will not want to read this quickly. You should take the time to appreciate the style, to reflect upon the adventures of the characters and to remember the historical events he mentions in passing, or the many literary references. You will pause before reading the next meaningful vignette. Terrific. It is called a 'fairy tale' and I suppose it is because all turns out well, but there are some anxious moments. Enjoy.

Amor Towles’ previous novel, Rules of Civility, is another fairy tale about two wisecracking gals from the mid-west making their way in 1930s New York. It is now on its way to become another bestseller. Fun ahead. What will he write next?

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Keep well,

Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Friday, 31 August 2018

Peter Corris, Sydney, and a man called Cliff

 We're 50 this year!

What would Australian crime writing be like if Peter Corris hadn't given us Cliff Hardy? If Peter Corris hadn't persisted for four years to get the first Cliff Hardy novel (The Dying Trade) published?

Over more than three decades and forty two Hardy novels later, the crime fiction scene in Australia has changed, but it would not perhaps be as strong as it is without the hard-bitten private investigator and his creator. Indeed, Corris was often described as the godfather of Australian crime, and when you think about it, there is no other person who could wear that description so aptly.

Hardy is the quintessential larrikin, with a quick eye and a colourful turn of phrase. His method of solving crime was not straight-forward; often it seemed as if he was pouring petrol on a fire to force the perpetrators into giving themselves away. One of the pleasures in reading the novels he featured in, was not just the recognisable 'Australianess' but also the recognisable 'Sydney-ness.' Over the years the city and its society changed, but there was Cliff, with his cigarettes and booze and talent for attracting trouble, observing it all and reflecting back to the reader a gritty moll of a city with its corrupt and undeniable beauty.

Silent Kill: Cliff Hardy #38 Gun Control: Cliff Hardy #40

Abbey's customers have always been loyal devotees of Hardy, and each new title was greeted with delight and anticipation - what was Hardy getting up to now? We have generally stocked an extensive range of Hardy novels, and they are consistent sellers - once discovered by a new reader, the vivid descriptions and twisty storylines prove addictive!

Vale Peter Corris; your fans will mourn you but be forever grateful you turned your vast talents to creating such a marvellous character and in doing so, changing the landscape of Australian crime writing.

Lindy Jones

Open File: Cliff Hardy #32 The Coast Road: Cliff Hardy #27
The Dunbar Case: Cliff Hardy #37 Win, Lose or Draw: Cliff Hardy #42

Former Manager at Abbey’s, Ann Leahy shared her anecdote of Peter:

“We asked him to come to the opening of Hunter St Books in Newcastle and he came. The audience begged him to set a Cliff Hardy novel in Newcastle. He did. What a legend and a lovely man.”

Peter was also a regular columnist for The Newtown Review of Books, which Abbey's has a long association with, run by Peter's wife, Jean Bedford, and Linda Funnell. Everyone at Abbey's sends their well wishes for Jean and her family.

Peter Corris in Newtown, Sydney

  1. The Dying Trade (1980)
  2. White Meat (1981)
  3. The Marvellous Boy (1982)
  4. The Empty Beach (1983)
  5. Heroin Annie: Cliff Hardy cases (1984)
  6. Make Me Rich (1985)
  7. The Big Drop: Cliff Hardy cases (1985)
  8. The Greenwich Apartments (1986)
  9. Deal Me Out (1986)
  10. The January Zone (1987)
  11. Man in the Shadows: Cliff Hardy cases (1988)
  12. O'Fear (1990)
  13. Wet Graves (1991)
  14. Aftershock (1992)
  15. Beware of the Dog (1992)
  16. Burn: Cliff Hardy cases (1993)
  17. Matrimonial Causes (1993)
  18. Casino (1994)
  19. The Washington Club (1997)
  20. Forget Me if You Can: Cliff Hardy cases (1997)
  21. The Reward (1997)
  22. The Black Prince (1998)
  23. The Other Side of Sorrow (1999)
  24. Lugarno (2001)
  25. Salt & Blood (2002)
  26. Master's Mates (2003)
  27. The Coast Road (2004)
  28. Taking Care of Business: Cliff Hardy cases (2004)
  29. Saving Bille (2005)
  30. The Undertow (2006)
  31. Appeal Denied (2007)
  32. The Big Score: Cliff Hardy cases (2007)
  33. Open File (2008)
  34. Deep Water (2009)
  35. Torn Apart (2010)
  36. Follow the Money (2011)
  37. Comeback (2012)
  38. The Dunbar Case (2013)
  39. Silent Kill (2014)
  40. Gun Control (2015)
  41. That Empty Feeling (2015)
  42. Win, Lose or Draw (2017)

Plus the audiobooks are also great to listen to:

And in closing, you might like to read this entertaining and candid interview with Peter, on the Pulp Curry blog, titled:
A sit down with the Godfather: an interview with Peter Corris.

What point did you think Cliff Hardy went from imitative to unique?

"The Empty Beach."

And that was made into a movie.

"That’s the one. Ratshit movie. Terrible film. But the money enabled me to put a deposit on a house. My stand-up comedy line is that I much preferred the house to the film."

Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Notes from Eve Abbey • August 2018

 We're 50 this year!

I am very happy to tell you that Michael Ondaatje’s new book Warlight is wonderful. Full of fascinating characters and wandering off in many directions. The story seems to be a tale of secret service agents and secret wars. The sometimes unlikely narrative becomes a vehicle for Ondaatje’s lucid, sparkling writing. There is a rivalry in the book between the voice of the narrator and the voice of the author. Enjoy!

His 1992 novel, The English Patient, has just been chosen for the Golden Man Booker - the best Booker Prize winner of the past fifty years. Disregard the fact that Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children was removed from the running by one of the judges.

Long-time readers of my blog will remember that daughter Jane has been working on the Thai Burma border with the Karen Women’s Organisation for many years, 24 to be exact. There are many Karen people now living in Sydney and Perth and some country areas who will be interested in a romantic interpretation of their recent history. Charmaine Craig is the daughter of a Karen woman and an Anglo-Indian Jewish businessman who was closely involved in the setting up of the Karen Union. The book is called Miss Burma and her beautiful mother did indeed become Miss Burma. The book was longlisted for the American National Book Award for fiction. The Karen people are still struggling for independence from Burma.

Another unusual book you will find in Asian History General is Air Battle for Burma: Allied Pilots’ Fight for Supremacy by Bryn Evans, a British military history writer now living in Sydney. Historical accounts of the various battles in Burma during WWII have always taken second place, so it’s fitting that this book, taken from vivid personal accounts written by some of the pilots, is now available. Ex-airmen will also enjoy this.

Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig Air Battle for Burma by Bryn Evans

Danielle Clode, a science writer from Victoria, seems to have made a leap from adventure to contemplation. Her most famous book is Voyages to the South Seas, about French explorers searching for the mysterious land that was Australia, while other titles include Killers in Eden: The Story of a Rare Partnership Between Man and Whales and Prehistoric Giants: The Megafauna of Australia and Prehistoric Marine Life in Australia’s Inland Sea.

Voyages to the South Seas by Danielle Clode Killers in Eden by Danielle Clode
Prehistoric Giants: The Megafauna of Australia by Danielle Clode Prehistoric Marine Life in Australia's Inland Sea

Clode is now offering a beautifully produced biography of a forgotten 20th century Australian naturalist. It is called The Wasp and the Orchid: The Remarkable Life of Australian Naturalist Edith Coleman. This suburban housewife and prolific nature writer became famous by solving the mystery of orchid pollination, which had evaded Darwin. The book includes many examples of Coleman’s lyrical nature writing and will appeal to many people happy to immerse themselves in peaceful times.

I recently had a very cosy day inside, tucked up by the heater, reading Appointment in Arezzo: A Friendship with Muriel Spark by Alan Taylor, a journalist and well-known literary figure in Scotland – deputy editor of The Scotsman, managing editor of Scotsman Publications and on all sorts of judging panels and committees. This is a terrific little book, 173 pages. If you’re one of the many people who loved Muriel Spark’s books, this is a charming introduction to some of the 22 books she published, now being reissued by Polygon Books to celebrate 100 years since her birth.

Coming out between November 2017 and September 2018, these are small hardbacks at a very good price – about $22.99. Some are also available in paperback in Popular Penguins or Random Classics, so have a look around. I’ve been reminded of several I want to read, including The Mandelbaum Gate and The Hothouse by the East River.

Appointment in Arezzo by Alan Taylor The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark
The Hothouse by the East River by Muriel Spark The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Everyone remembers The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which had a famous entry to the world. For the first - and possibly last - time, the New Yorker Magazine devoted an entire issue to publish this comic and tragic story of the charismatic schoolmistress manipulating her students. This is the time when Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh both declared their admiration of her writing. This sharp and unsentimental writer was both a critical and commercial success.

Alan Taylor’s memories of their long friendship are based around visits to her home in Italy where she lived with Penelope Jardine, another Scot. He makes it very clear this was not a lesbian relationship, just a very helpful friendship. Polygon is of course a Scottish publisher. Alexander McCall Smith is another of their published authors.

Now that Abbey’s is fifty years old, you may be interested to read some of our history in the booklet we published when we turned forty. Find Forty Memories at About Abbey’s on our website.

Keep well,


Since 1968 ~ Abbey's 131 York Street Sydney ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers